Man finds work 'with the gods'
By Jesse Phelps
Wayne Isham was an Ojai kid who
grew up to find himself traveling all over the world, first as
an Army enlistee and later as he discovered a love for filmmaking.
But as life went on, he said, all he wanted to do was get back
to Ojai. Isham joined the U.S. Army as a teenager "just
to get out of town." He used the GI Bill to put himself
through school in Santa Barbara. There he took a class with an
element of cinematography, which inspired him.
Still, he said, he wasn't sure what to do.
Despite lacking a film school education, he followed his inspiration
to Hollywood and knocked on doors. He swept floors, drove trucks,
worked as a grip- an electrician on sets - and watched, "just
to be close to the heat." He said he wished he could have
had a more formal education before he stepped in, rather than
"learning from the school of mistakes."
But learn he did, eventually going on to direct more than 150
music videos and several commercials for companies such as American
Express, Target and Coors, even a Super Bowl spot for Budweiser.
Artists he has had the opportunity to work with include Metallica,
Sheryl Crow, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin, Julio
Iglesias, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Brittany Spears,
N'Sync, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Christina Aguilera, Back
Street Boys and Kid Rock.
Isham won a quartet of coveted MTV "Moonman" awards
in 1991 and continues to be acknowledged as one of the best in
"I get to work with the gods," he said. Isham would
not admit to having a favorite artist because, he said, "It's
liking asking a mother who's their favorite child."
He's got a wealth of stories to share about various artists.
A favorite involves Crow. Before the shoot, her manager warned
Isham that she hated making videos. Yet after days of learning
how to surf, jumping off waterfalls and riding motorcycles, she
said she loved it.
"I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be going
to places all over the world to make films," said Isham.
Locations have included New York City, Moscow, Tokyo, Buenos
Aires, and, of course, Hollywood. Isham loves the filmmaking
process and said that he has the best job on Earth. "I am
a filmmaker!" He enthused. "I love what I do. I love
working with artists."
What he loves, too, he said, is the community that filmmakers
share. Even across languages, they all love their work. Being
an Ojai kid, Isham is a fan of community. He was raised in the
Ojai Valley, where he also met his wife, Connie. Together, they
have two grown children, Justin and Amber. Justin is involved
in a band, while Amber attends college.
Early on, Isham said, Connie used to go on set with him, often
acting as a producer. The kids also grew up on sets, often coming
with him so they could spend time together. While Isham said
it has sometimes been difficult to balance work and family life,
his wife remains his main supporter. "We're always watching
movies," Isham said.
Now the family has come back to its roots in the valley. Isham
said he returned to Ojai because he finds it inspirational. "I
am an Ojai kid," he said, "and why would anyone want
to leave? Ojai will always be my home, unless they kick me out."
It was here in town that Isham said he originally caught the
filmmaking bug when he started playing with his dad's 8mm camera
as a kid. With his brother, he remembers taping a bottle blowing
up in slow motion.
"Now I have a job where I can blow things up, be in helicopters,
and it's all cool," he said.
He remembers first break, a Jimi Hendrix tribute video that came
along after years of toil in the trenches. He said he learned
by watching others while he was delivering tapes to studios.
One day he told the man in charge he could do it better and the
man said he should give it a try. He did.
The result was a success - his first professional music video.
Today he uses four different formats for a video: Super 8, mini-digital
video, Betacam and 16mm.
He said his most recent video was for the Fab 5 in New York.
The production, a three-hour shoot including150 people, cars
and dancers, closed down the Brooklyn Bridge.
Isham particularly enjoyed a helicopter ride, zooming in on the
guys on the bridge, which he said was "like a dream come
true." Last week the finished product aired on "Queer
Eye for the Straight Guy."
Isham said he had to get properly prepared for the experience.
Before he met the "Queer Eye" guys he had hair four
inches longer, but decided to cut it before they got a hold of
him. He was afraid, he said, that they would hold him down and
cut it off.
While on the subject of cuts, Isham pointed out that editors
are an essential part of his work. He works out of a soundtrack
studio and the Avenue Edit Studio in Santa Monica with two editors,
one offline and the other online.
"In editing, it's good to have two people, to have two opinons,"
Isham said. "Sometimes one sees something the other doesn't
see and then vice versa. Sometimes one voice has to speak to
make everything work."
He said he first allows his editor to work freely, then goes
in and goes through every frame with them.
His offline editor, Steve MacCorkle, said in an interview that
he often works through 30 hours of film for a 30-second finished
cut. He also said that Isham is a great director because "he
always goes the extra mile to get it done."
Isham said his future goals include feature filmmaking. He said
he loves every aspect of the process and is looking forward to
trying his hand on a full-length theatrical project.
Isham also provided a word of advice for fellow filmmakers. "Don't
limit yourself. You must keep an open mind and have a broader
scope," he said. "Have a wide angle lens about what's
going on. Open your mind and kick some ass. Do whatever you do
the best you can."
The Ojai Valley News
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